Vast amounts of digital data are now generated daily by people as they go about their lives, yet social researchers are struggling to exploit it. At the same time, the challenges faced by society in the 21st century are growing ever more complex, and demands research that is bigger in scale, more collaborative and multi-disciplinary than ever before. This cutting-edge volume provides an accessible introduction to innovative digital social research tools and methods that harness this ‘data deluge’ and successfully tackle key research challenges. Contributions from leading international researchers cover topics such as:  • Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods research  • Data management  • Social media and social network analysis  • Modeling and simulation  • Survey methods  • Visualizing social data  • Ethics and e-research  • The future of social research in the digital age This vibrant introduction to innovative digital research methods is essential reading for anyone conducting social research today.

Modelling and Simulation

Mark BirkinNick Malleson

6.1 Introduction

The application of simulation models has been a major growth area for social sciences over the last 15 years, probably dating back most crucially to the appearance of Growing Artificial Societies (Epstein and Axtell, 1996) in which, according to the cover notes, the authors attempt to ‘grow a proto-history of civilisation’ which embraces demographics, culture, conflict, economic production and trade. An appreciation of concepts such as agent-based modelling, social simulation, or artificial society itself is now widespread in research and social science literature.

Notwithstanding this recent, and welcome, upsurge of interest, it is important not to overlook the fact that social scientists have used models extensively for many decades. For example, and perhaps most famously, the ideas of systems ...

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